ANNUAL MEETING: Facebook’s Community Initiatives

By David Cohen 

1HackerWay650Facebook described its efforts to help improve the San Francisco Bay area and Silicon Valley in response to a question at its annual meeting at the Sofitel San Francisco Bay in Redwood City, Calif.

An attendee asked:

In the past year, there has been a lot of media coverage on the growing income inequality and gentrification of San Francisco and Silicon Valley, symbolized by the protests against Facebook and Google buses. I’d like to know how Facebook has been proactively engaging in the San Francisco Bay area community, as well as other geographies that has a corporate presence in, to be a better corporate citizen. Working in the tech industry here in Silicon Valley, I have a growing concern about the perception of the industry turning a blind eye and the “Let them eat cake” attitude that is being painted.

A Facebook spokesperson replied:

We take our responsibilities as a company and as a part of a community really seriously. And with more than 1 billion users around the world, we’re a part of lots of different communities geographically. Here in the Bay area, we have several homes. We have lots of people who work for us in San Francisco proper. We have an active community right near our headquarters in Menlo Park and in East Palo Alto, and we have lots of people who live all around the Bay area.

So for us, being a good citizen is really not just about San Francisco — it’s really about integrating in all of those communities. And we’ve started pretty aggressively working, first and foremost in the community that’s closest to us in Menlo Park and East Palo Alto. We have active relationships with the city and with the local school district. And in fact, I think it’s almost a $500,000 community fund that we’ve had in East Palo Alto and Menlo Park.

In moving further north, in Redwood City, we’ve been doing a lot of work already with the school district there. We will be doing more with the city and the community, as well. We have an active team. I think (Head of Community Engagement) Susan Gonzales is one of the people who leads that team. She is here today. Susan if you want to raise your hand so that people can see that you’re here. She can go on quite a length in terms of detail that we do.

San Francisco obviously is really, really important. We work very closely with the mayor, with the supervisors to make sure people understand the contributions that we make. Frankly, we’ve been somewhat surprised by the response to an activity, the shuttle buses, that we actually think is positive environmentally and actually good for reducing congestion. And in fact, some of the surveys that have been done really demonstrate that the population as a whole really appreciates that.

But because we do have an active presence with so many workers who are there, people work very closely with community groups. We have a close relationship with the Mission Economic Development Agency. We’ve been focusing on issues related to digital literacy. We’ve been doing a lot of work with nonprofit groups in San Francisco and other areas. I know I am going on long. We’re doing lots of things. We will do more.

And I think you’ve heard people talk about Facebook as you hear (Co-Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg) describe our vision. Our vision really is one of building community, and we want to do that not only on the side of virtual communities, but also physical communities, and our employees are very engaged in that.

Readers: What is your impression of Facebook’s community efforts?

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